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Four Corners

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Australia is commonly represented as an accepting and multicultural nation that strives to have a good image internationally. This image is portrayed through the pervading idea amongst Australian citizens that we look after our own. One such example that contradicts this statement was the homophobic enticed violence in Townsville. This specific example also challenges the stereotype of Australians¬, being those with an accepting and welcoming personality. Many current affairs programs attempt to persuade viewers to take certain viewpoints and respond sympathetically towards the victims in society who do not experience this acceptance. One such story "Hitting Material" produced by Four Corners outlines the high level discrimination occurring within rural towns towards homosexuals. As a result of this discrimination, the viewer is encouraged to respond empathetically towards the identified homosexuals and accept the programme's point of view on this issue. Through the mixture of techniques of selection of detail, emphasising and privileging, characterization, setting and language, the viewer is positioned to respond critically towards the homophobic male citizens in Townsville. Townsville is also presented as a representation of many rural Australian towns, thus making the issue a universal and urgent one that needs to be addressed.

"Hitting Material" brings about a sympathetic response towards the portrayed 'innocent' homosexual victims. This causes the viewer to respond critically towards those being accused of homophobic related behaviour. This is enforced by characterisation, setting and selection of detail. Through the characterisation of the gay community the producer highlights the extent of damage caused to them by homophobic violence. For instance, the close up on Peter Paterson's facial scars evokes a powerful sympathetic response and also portrays his emotional torment through his almost fatal experience. Furthermore, the producer allows Paterson's sense of humour in the face of his devastating experience to shine through. He says, "they had to go into my neck and as you can see that's much tighter on that side, so I've had a little neck-lift there". The producer has specifically selected a larger airing time of Paterson and other homosexual victims. The producer portrays the selected homosexuals as innocent through their background and surrounding context. In particular, Paterson is characterised as having a strong bond within his family compared to other parents who are shown to have neglected their homosexual son. "Paterson's parents, in striking contrast to some others, have stood by their son unquestioningly". Through Paterson's description and the way his parents are depicted, the viewer is positioned to respond with a much more positive attitude towards his parents. Paterson explains: "But they loved me anyway, you know, because they just thought, oh, well, that's the way I am". Additionally, the interviewer characterises other homosexual victims as neglected and misunderstood.

In addition to our sympathy towards the homosexual characters, we are persuaded to respond critically towards those portrayed as homophobic. The producer utilises emphasising and privileging, archival footage, characterisation and setting to portray the prejudice of the heterosexual community. For instance, Whayne Jung has been used by the interviewer to show what little motivation was required before causing harmful violence towards Will Schmidt. The setting of this interview emphasises that Jung is of lesser intelligence and has had little education. The run down, abandoned train track, graffiti filled walls characterises Jung as an outcast of society through his actions and the viewer responds to him critically for his violence towards Will. Another incident of homophobic violence highlighted in the documentary is the crude bombing of the AIDS centre. The producer emphasises that the perpetrators of the bombing acted simply out of boredom and could give no explanation for their attack, saying that they did it "just because they're faggots". On the other hand the viewer sees how much the bombing impacted upon victims. In particular, the affect on Darrel Colbert-Whitford who, after the bombing, "became nastier and more personal" and was targeted by the homophobic community. The interviewer positions Darrel to recollect his near fatal experience in detail to invoke a strong sympathetic response and build shock in the viewer. He says, "they actually caught up to me in the stairwell, dragged me down, ripped my shirt open and I was subsequently stabbed in the side of the neck, just here, with a syringe". This horrific encounter has emphasised that violence should not be tolerated towards the gay community. Other examples of the intolerable violence that occurred towards homosexuals included the archival footage of the stabbing of Peter Paterson in his home "a scene out of psycho".

The producer characterises the heterosexual, homophobic people as "young, male, white and unemployed" and portrays their typical surroundings to be gang orientated, heavy public drinkers and constant drag racers. The interviewer selects and emphasises one homophobic representative of Australia's young heterosexual community in particular to show his negative attitude towards the gay community. The young man's humorous yet shocking comment of "It was Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve," reveals this incoherent and intolerable comment that has been the motivation for most of the hate crime. The producer also characterises



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